Wednesday, March 6, 2013

An Ending Here

For many of my friends who have been following my blog here I would like to direct you to my newer blogs.  Both are easier for me right now and I have newer posts there, too.  Thank you for reading my words and thoughts.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Reel Life

The John Wayne American,
Is not truly a U.S.
Only a ghost of that
Cowboy who once was.

In truth we're
Not rugged individuals,
But rather
one of many

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Strange Toys

My siblings and I all loved to go visit grandma during the summer months, but the drive always seemed to take so long to get to my grandma’s small house up on West Lake.  Sitting on the car's sticky vinyl seats was uncomfortable at best, and sitting still was hard.  Swinging our legs was always a distraction and it was so hard.  But the ride was always worth it because of the destination, our grandmother's house on the lake.  It always meant swimming in those hot summer months, but for me, it meant so much more.

To my sisters being at grandma’s and away from their friends was b-o-r-i-n-g, but I felt it was an exciting escape, especially if my cousin Gail was there, too. 

From the beginning Gail was more like my big sister and we two spent hours together creating an imagined world that was filled with lions, bears, and even snakes when we went exploring through grandma’s closet or attic together.  The closet was where the buckskin clothing hung, but also where our stories began. At lunch downstairs at the dinner table it could be lie any typical family meal.  But when my Grandma began her stories it became a magical place.  In our eyes she was one of the best storytellers and would usually begin telling tales as we all began to eat, or even sometimes just when we all had our mouths full of food!  From wild animal stories to those of the native Americans who traveled with her father's three ringed circus we were always thrilled with the scary and fun stories she shared with us over dinner.

One of our favorite stories was about the various, “toys,” that were an everyday part of grandma’s life.  From the dolls the Native Americans made her, to the old tooth-less lion there was strange and always a fun to scratch and enjoy like some huge stuffed animal she had much to enjoy in her free time in the Fowler Brothers Circus.

One of her favorite toys came every year when the circus was in Alabama during the winter months.  The trucks that carried the tents, costumes and of course the performers usually stayed in the small roadside cottages that huddled along the highways all over the coastal areas of the state.  Every year they would stop along the roads by swamps or bayous and shop at local fish stands for food, but also something more.  They would get supplies, but also look for eggs.  But not just any eggs they were searching for alligator eggs.  Great-Grandpa Fletcher would bargain for alligator eggs from the local fisherman to hatch for the circus.   When they arrived at the motels they’d hide the eggs in the wood boxes that were always near a fireplace to keep them warm.  Wrapped in old blankets and turned often to get uniformly warmth these eggs always seemed to hatch out at the most inopportune moment.  Hiding them from motel proprietors was always a challenge because insisted that there be no animals in the rooms.   Most of the time they insisted on compliance, but with a circus full of animals it was always hard since they were often the only pets that grandma and her sister ever had.

One year as the baby alligators began hatching out and crying like alligator babies do for their mama the landlady just happened to be at the cabin door to collect the monthly rent.  She was suddenly startled by what must have seemed to be high pitched screams and took off out the door screaming.  She was sure there was something terrible there that was going to get her!”  Needless to say that was the last time they spent the winter in that particular motel.

The best part of having baby gators in the circus was of course the fact that for at least two weeks to four weeks these slimy creatures would fit perfectly into the small buckskin doll clothes that the Native Americans in the circus troop had made over the winter months for the homemade dolls the two sisters had for play things.

Wrapped in buckskin and feathers those small alligator dolls were held close as if they were babies as the two girls walked among the wagons and trucks that held the families of the clowns, aerialists, and of course the caged animals in the field behind the motel.  As we listened to the stories the image of those wriggling baby alligators dressed in buckskin was often more than we girls could handle and we often began squealing “e-u-w-w-w-w!” as grammy would tell us about how very cold those gators felt with their constantly flicking tails and strong legs! 

Today when we talk about those stories we still laugh and but often wonder too. We think about what it might have been like for us to walk among the tents and trucks.  What would it have been like if we’d been the girls growing up so long ago in grandma's home, the Fowler Brothers Circus.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Is There a Dragon in the House?

This is a repeat of something I wrote in 2009.  I find it a bit funny that many of us tend to revisit writings that touch a spot in our lives and sometimes and find it still very appropriate for the time times today as well.  

A couple of weeks a go I finally capped the Potter book series with seeing the final movie with a friend.  Good movie!

Dragons and castles. They really only live in fairy tales and stories from the European Middle Ages or tales that come out of early China or Japan, right? Most of the time they do, but when the days get tough and things get really hard those stories have often drawn many in our country to those great escapes where the world in those books, comics, and video games becomes different, intriguing, and on the whole a wonderfully different place to live - if only in our minds!

For me imagination is a way to find an out - an escape from the reality of our world to a place where we can all have those private dreams that really take us out of this world. There are of course other genres that fits a fantasy escape people often take advantage of, and they are found in the many of the games (computer or otherwise) that help many create those other worlds just for the fun of it!

So what drives the change for more and more people to those imaginary worlds, the economy,loss of jobs, fear or all of the above? In my world it is all of them and the need to have an escape that is right there if I turn the page is what drives my reading at the moment.

My personal escapes at the moment happens to be Harry Potter (both the books and the movies), and time period mysteries as well, books like any Miss Marple, by Agatha Christie and of course my favorite monk, Cadfael, by Ellis Peters. Are there some others I rely on for that escapism that sends me flying into outer space, or back to a time to paint the world in a vastly different hues? Of course!  Discovering and creating new towns or times gives me a sense of real excitement.  Constructing those imaginary worlds where that getting away from my life can be a real release valve these days.

Another great book series is the ones by Christopher Paolini which begins with Eargon, and ends with Brisingr (Thus far!). Though considered a young people's series, this group of books creates a fascinating totally new world filled some of the very best places and characters to take a little literary vacation in, and for me that kind of holiday from the world can always be found between the covers of a good book.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Last, But Certainly Not the Least of One Wonderful Vacation

I haven't written on this part of my trip, because it was the end of our time in Ireland, and who would want to let go of those kind of memories?  But we all know that my finishing a story it doesn't mean that the story is over.  For me it seems with each picture I get images of days and that makes for great times that can be relived as often as I want to re-explore Ireland!  So here's another chapter.  

The most beautiful and the most inspirational part of the journey was our visit to the Rock of Cashel.  Often known as St. Patrick's Rock, this was originally the residence for the Kings of Munster.  Found in County Tipperary it was an absolutely beautiful day when we visited.  The Rock was given to the church in 1101.  While we were there much of the site was being restored, but the tour still got us in much of the Cathedral anyway.  The most awe inspiring part was the view from the Rock which was really fabulous.

This is a copy of the Cross
of St. Patrick on the Rock.
The original is inside the
main building to keep it
from weathering any more.

While we were here there was quite
a bit of restoration going on!

This is the west side
where the bishop lived.

The wall of the cathedral
has no stained glass
windows, but the wholes
remaining are the home for
many nesting birds.
I loved the arches!  That
and the gravel floor gave
a real echo of the past.

The cemetery just outside
the cathedral goes back
centuries.  What made this
part of the tour extra special
was the view of the
surrounding fields - we
could see for miles!

The round tower, typical
of many found in Ireland
was really beautiful.

The out side view of the cathedral.
The side chapel in the
side of the cathedral
had many murals that
because of the damp climate
are fading or mildewing.

This is one of a few of the murals
and carvings that still exist in
the chapel.

I could not get enough of the views
from the Rock.

After a tour of the Rock
we headed into the
village below.  Good food
and shopping here!

More of the views from the

A shot of the village.
This was one of the many fields
that graced the hillsides of
Ireland.  I was blown away by
the many colors of green that
the spring holds here.

The Rock has a sheer face on the
East side.  There were two small
boys climbing like monkeys on the
face and it made me VERY

Another view.

We boarded the bus and headed
out to Kinsale and the ocean.  I
really love the signposts in
Ireland! (Take time to click on
the picture to see the various
places we could have gone!)
On the bus we were finally heading further West and away from the large cities of the East and into the rural  farm communities and fishing villages of West Ireland.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Ireland and England (The Second Half!)

One of the barrels
used for fermentation.

We spent time visiting a few places in and around Dublin City.  One of the first places we got to see was the Guinness  Storehouse which was a lot of fun.  Arthur Guiness was a wise man. ;-)  He got the City of Dublin to give him a 9,000 year lease on the Storehouse property at an initial price of 100 Irish pounds after which he only paid 45 pounds a month for the rest of the lease.  While there we discovered the history of how the brew is made, and got to enjoy a free Guinness on the top floor of the building after the tour in the Gravity Bar.  The Gravity Bar is a round room with a 360 view of the city of Dublin.  We had a great view, and a great drink at the same time!
This is the lease that started it all.

The Guinnes Harp.

The last day in Dublin was spent traveling by our bus all around and one of the sites we saw was St. Patrick's Cathedral.  The cathedral was in the center of a park where families were enjoying the day and it was surrounded with plaques that honored the writers of Ireland.
St. Patrick's Cathedral

The park was beautiful.

This is just one of the plaques that
were within the church park around
St. Patrick's.

Usually the plots between the hedgerows were
filled with sheep - after all it was lambing
So after those first days we left the city of Dublin and headed out into the countryside for the first time.  We got to see some of the mountains and the patchwork quilt like hillsides that are divided by hedgerows.

The drive by itself was lovely, but the destination took my breath away.  Glendalough is an example of Celtic Monasticism.  The graveyards were very holy and so were placed within the walls of the encampment near the church.  In this lovely area there is a church and a cathedral!  The buildings are all of stone - even the roofs were made of stone.  Glendalough means "The valley of the two lakes" in Irish.  St. Kevin established this monastic settlement in the sixth century.
The entrance to the Glendalough
community was through a stone gate
which led to one of the most intriguing
historical sites we saw in Ireland.

The site had a small museum that held
many stone crosses and a layout of
what the monastic village look like in
its early days as well.
One of the first sites was St. Kevin's
Church .

The cemetery was huge and is
still used today.  In the background
is another view of St. Kevin's Church.

This is the outside of the cathedral on the site
which though it had no roof  was still a beautiful

St. Kevin's Church
St. Kevin's Cross
I think Glendalough was one of my favorite spots in Ireland.  The natural beauty was everywhere I looked!  It also was such a peaceful place both in the sense that it was so quiet, and that it held such spiritual peace for me while I was there.  I could go back there tomorrow because while there I felt like I had truly come home.

More to come later!  (I really didn't realize I had taken so MANY pictures!)


Sunday, April 3, 2011

An Irish Holiday

March 31st, 2011
1:35 P.M.

We left the sunshine of West Michigan and landed in dark and dreary Newark, New Jersey for our layover before our flight to Ireland, our own land of adventure.  The weather CANNOT dampen my excitement about this trip I’ve begun, though.  This is a beginning, a first step toward my exploration of the Emerald Isle. Life is definitely good! 

We left on an express flight (i.e. a small jet) and after an almost a two-hour flight we are here in Newark waiting for our connecting flight to Ireland.  We ate at a nasty Chinese place for lunch in the terminal and now have a LONG lay over, but that’s okay since I’m doing some catch up on my journal and will do some knitting as well.  I am off to read my book, or rather listen to it.  I will add more later.

April 1, 2011
Dublin Airport.  We got our luggage and went through customs and are now sitting and waiting.  For any of you who have traveled with a tour you know it is much like the armed forces – you hurry up…and wait.  We are waiting for the rest of our group to come in as we’ve all I have to admit it is good to be able to actually stretch out aver an almost 6 hour flight from Newark, New Jersey. 

The skies are gray and dark, but it isn’t raining.  Ah, but the trees are green!!   After leaving the browns of Michigan where there is still an abundance of dirty snow it is good to see some spring colors abounding.  We were shuttled to the Calaghan Davenport Hotel near Merian Square and got a chance to freshen up after being “on the way here,” from 10:05 AM on the 31st.  

We’re resting and having a bit of recouping.  We will tour a bit of Dublin this afternoon visiting Trinity College, St. Steven’s Green, the Famine Memorial, and O’Connell Street.  We’ve really hit the ground running!

April 2, 2011
We started this day with a ride around the city with a fascinating bit of history thrown into the mix.  Dublin Castle was a fabulous place and the history lesson we had was done extremely well and was really interesting.  The one thing I have discovered the wonderful wit and friendliness of the people of Dublin.  We learned some of the sad history of the very resilient Irish people.  We’ve also of past visits by the British monarchy and that of some important visits to come this month as well.  They will be entertaining the Queen of England first, and then our own president, Barak Obama. 

One of the many favorite lines from our guide that kept us laughing was, “We don’t dislike the English – we hate them!”  But it was said in fun, as was almost everything our guide told us.  He enjoyed joking with us and was terribly irreverent toward almost everyone from history!

  Does this building look familiar?  
 It should! The man who designed 
it also designed the White House!  
This is the Irish President's residence 
in Phoenix Park in Dublin.
We continued on through a very small section of Phoenix Park, which is a HUGE park within the city.  This fabulous recreational area is larger by far than Central Park in New York and Hyde Park in London!  And besides being a park that many local people use it houses the homes of The President of Ireland, the home for the ambassador of the United States, and Dan Rooney of the Pittsburgh Steelers.  It also is home to the Dublin Zoo!  There are soccer fields and lovely green lawn areas with small-forested areas within its borders, too. 
This statue of justice is at the gate to 
the castle's inner court.  It faces 
toward the castle and the British 
government's representative and not 
the outside and the people who he had 
represented. It was said because of 
the that that justice had turned her 
back on the Irish people.

 Many of the rooms in the Dublin 
Castle were similar to those you 
would find in any castle.
 But unlike in times past they are 
used to welcome visitors both royal 
and presidential to the Irish 
government and it's people. 
The symbol of Ireland is of course the 
Irish harp.What was interesting for 
me to learn was that the 
color for the country was not 
green, but deep blue.
 The Waterford chandeliers
were fabulous!  This one illuminated 
one of the fabulous paintings found 
on the ceilings throughout the 

This is St. Patrick's cathedral in 
downtown Dublin.  It has the 
most beautiful park all around 
it and along the brick wall on 
one side there are relief 
sculptures of all the literary 
men who put the Irish on the
map.  Men like George 
Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde 
and so many more.


We also were given an historical
background on the Irish potato
famine and those who suffered
the horrific while visiting the
Famine Memorial.  This part of
Ireland’s history still touches many
Irish families who lost members
so long ago either because of death
from starvation, or from immigration.

The staues for the memorial are all gaunt and
really emphasize the worst that happened to the
Irish people during this most difficukt time in their
history.  The sister memorial found in New York
shows the poor that came to our country in less
dire straights and with smiles on their faces.

FitzWilliam Street is a real piece of the past near the heart of this grand city that is lined with many of the original gas lights as well as early Georgian row houses with their multitude of chimneys on each and every roof (One for every room in the house).  The colorful doors often with brass knockers and knobs that truly adds to the beauty of this area of Dublin.  From there we passed the Shelborne Hotel a very old and historical, Trinity College where the book of Kells is and more than a few pubs as well.  We ate dinner at O’Neil’s Pub that evening and had some of the very best fish n’ chips I have ever eaten!  This small pub with it’s dark wood interior was a real find for dinner with a wonderful feel of touching Dublin’s past.

These two Georgian Mansions were fabulous and there were at least 15 to 20 on each block.  There were many with red and roayal blue doors that added to the elegance.  This is the really saught after parts of town to live in for the wealthy and was even in the 1800s.  Writers like Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw use to live here! 

Note those chimneys.  Each single one in the large 
chimneys were for individual rooms in each house.

April 2nd was a jam-packed day filled with all sorts of places to enjoy.  We started off the morning early with a trip outside of Dublin to Glendalough Monastery a monastic settlement that dates back centuries to the very beginnings of Christianity in Ireland. The Solid stone church (Roof and all!) and cathedral were awe-inspiring and the huge cemetery continues to add new graves for the Irish up to today.

From there it was back to Dublin and a free afternoon which many of us filled with visits to the Guinness Storehouse, Jameson Distillery, and the Trinity College Library to view the ancient Book of Kells.  The evening was a huge part of the tour with a trip to a thatched dinning establishment called Taylor’s.  Here we had a fabulous meal and such a treat after that included a group if Irish singers who treated us to rousing songs of Ireland both old and new as well as some extremely talented Irish step dancers.  Tomorrow will hold many more excursions and a change of hotel too, but for now we are off to bed.